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Indian Government Prepares for Crucial Confidence Vote

  • Anjana Pasricha

There is hectic political lobbying in India, where the Congress-led coalition government is preparing to face a vote of confidence later this month. The government opted to hold the vote after angry leftist parties took back their support to protest a civilian nuclear deal with the United States. Anjana Pasricha has a report from New Delhi.

The Congress-led coalition government says a special session of parliament will be convened to hold the confidence vote.

The government, which controls only 225 lawmakers in the 545 lower house of parliament, lost its majority earlier this week when communist allies took back their
support.

The communist parties have vowed to do everything they can to stop the government from finalizing a civilian nuclear pact with the United States. The deal will give New Delhi access to civilian nuclear technology, from which it is barred, because it has not signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.

The government says that it will only conclude the nuclear deal after proving that it has parliamentary majority.

Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in New Delhi Friday, that the government is confident of passing the test in the lower house of parliament, known as the Lok Sabha.

"Parting company with the left is sad, but sometimes in politics it happens," said Mukherjee. "There is no bitterness among us. But at the same time we shall have to accept this challenge, with our courage and conviction which we are going to do. Everybody is prepared to face the vote of confidence in Lok Sabha."

But the Congress Party is taking no chances, and is busy trying to cobble together parliamentary support to ensure its survival.

Party managers were closeted in meetings with small political parties on Friday to enlist the support of as many lawmakers as possible.

The Congress Party-led alliance has already secured the vital support of a regional group, the Samajwadi Party. But it needs the backing of more lawmakers to ensure that it can win the confidence vote. There are also worries that some lawmakers of the Samajwadi party may rebel.

Both the fate of the nuclear deal with the United States and the government will depend on the outcome of the crucial confidence vote.

If the government loses the vote, it will have to call early elections. It will also not be in a position to move ahead with the civilian nuclear deal with the United States.

But a confident government says that will not happen.

The government has already taken the first step toward implementing the deal by submitting a draft plan for inspections of its civilian nuclear reactors by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

That move has further angered India's leftist parties and other opposition parties, who say a government without a majority should not move ahead with an international
agreement.

The communist parties say the nuclear pact will bring New Delhi too close to Washington. The Indian government says it needs the deal to ensure future energy supplies for the country.

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